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Original Contribution
March 2004

Correlation of In Vivo Neuroimaging Abnormalities With Postmortem Human Immunodeficiency Virus Encephalitis and Dendritic Loss

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry (Ms Archibald and Drs Fennema-Notestine, Marcotte, Heaton, Grant, and Jernigan), Neurosciences (Drs Masliah, Ellis, and Miller and Ms Mallory), Medicine (Dr McCutchan), and Pathology (Dr Masliah), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, Calif; and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System (Ms Archibald and Drs Fennema-Notestine, Grant, and Jernigan).Margaret Mallory is deceased.

Arch Neurol. 2004;61(3):369-376. doi:10.1001/archneur.61.3.369

Background  In the absence of significant opportunistic infection, the most common alterations on neuroimaging in the brains of patients with AIDS include enlarged cerebrospinal fluid spaces, white-matter loss, volume loss in striatal structures, and white-matter signal abnormalities. Although previous studies have linked brain viral levels to these alterations, other neuropathological mechanisms might also contribute to them.

Objective  To examine the relationship between findings on premortem magnetic resonance images and postmortem neuropathologic evidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) encephalitis and neurodegeneration.

Design  Morphometric analysis of magnetic resonance imaging in seropositive cases with matched seronegative controls, and the correlation of these volumes to neuropathological measures in autopsied seropositive cases.

Setting  University of California, San Diego, HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center.

Subjects  Twenty-one seropositive subjects studied at autopsy and 19 seronegative cases.

Main Outcome Measures  In vivo structural magnetic resonance imaging data analyzed by quantitative methods, with comparison of volumes from magnetic resonance imaging and neuropathological data from autopsies.

Results  The HIV-seropositive subjects demonstrated cerebrospinal fluid increases relative to seronegative controls. These increases were associated with a significant decrease in the volumes of cerebral and cerebellar white matter, caudate nucleus, hippocampus, and, to a lesser extent, cerebral cortex. The volume of cerebral white-matter tissue with elevated signal was also increased. This signal elevation in white matter predicted the autopsy diagnosis of HIV encephalitis, as well as the extent of dendritic loss as assessed by analysis of microtubule-associated protein 2 immunoreactivity.

Conclusions  White-matter and cortical damage resulting from HIV disease are closely related. In vivo magnetic resonance imaging may be a valuable adjunct in the assessment of patients at risk for developing HIV encephalitis.